Doritos released a viral commercial called "The Best Gift". The ad made 14 million views in its first two weeks.

Here are 3 lessons you can learn from this ad to craft viral content.

But if you haven't watched the ad before you should do it:

Lesson #1: Get inspired by other viral content

This ad was inspired from a Reddit thread that went viral:

The Reddit Thread source.

In this thread a divorced dad from the UK is asking for advice the Reddit community. He wants to know what would be the best approach to let his son know that he is okay with him being gay.  This post is well-written and touching, you should read it.

The thread went viral and it inspired the Doritos ad.

Lesson #1:

Using a story that is authentic and that already went viral was a smart bet from Doritos. They already knew the story was powerful. So if you're looking for a story to tell as a marketer, look online. There are many stories you can just borrow. And if they already went viral once, it's a safe bet it will happen again.

Lesson #2: Develop a long-term platform

Doritos has been using "being gay" as a topic in their ads since 2002.

However, it was not always mentioned with a message of acceptance. Actually, for a while, it was used as a "fun" topic, something to make fun of.  

For example in this ad portraying Adam and Eve. Adam prefers leaving with a chubby character eating Doritos than with Eve and her apple:

It's only in 2015 that Doritos launched their most LGBT-friendly campaign (source).

They launched the Doritos rainbow.

This campaign used a more supportive approach to the LGBT community. And the messaging was geared towards acceptance.

But it's only in 2020, 18 years after starting addressing this topic, that they finally hit a homerun with this "Best Gift" campaign.

Lesson #2:

When there is a theme you want to associate your brand with and talk about, aim for the long-term. It takes years to find the right angle for a message. So keep on trying and you'll get there.

Lesson #3: Show a story, not an ad

This is a very distinctive trait of Doritos ads.

They most often have a strong storytelling approach.

Like all good stories, their ads often:

  • Portray a character;
  • This character goes through a few events;
  • The ending is powerful and surprising
  • + There is always a distinctive weird, grotesque, funny twist.

Doritos is obsessed with telling good quick stories.

In fact, they use their fan base to find the most successful ones. Every year they organize the "Crash the Super Bowl" contest, where fans can submit an ad and get a chance to have their ad aired during the Superbowl and earn a cash prize.

Source

Lesson #3:

We tend to remember good stories.

Doritos as a product often has a secondary role in their ads. Sometimes we don't even see any chips. But that's the difference between building a brand and selling a product. You don't need to show the product all the time. You need something people are going to gladly watch and re-watch. The entertainment value is much more important than anything else.